When Hannah first met her husband, *Tom, nearly three decades ago, Hannah says on paper they were a perfect match.
“We suited each other perfectly and we were equals. By that I mean that there wasn’t one component of our relationship where one of us was on another level to the other, we came from similar backgrounds, were both similarly educated, earned and contributed equally and look wise we were well matched,” Hannah tells Body+Soul.
But now, after twenty years of marriage, Hannah says one component has drastically changed; Tom has become far more attractive than her.
“As cliché as it sounds Tom is like a fine wine, he gets better with age. It is like his fifties are his prime; he is fitter, healthier and appearance-wise this just shows.
Initially, I was happy for him and me too of course because who doesn’t want to have a husband who looks amazing? But over time I have become more conscious of what I look like and how this contrasts with Tom and to be honest, it feels soul-destroying,” she says.
While Tom has become the best version of himself according to Hannah, Hannah says her own appearance has gone in the other direction.
“I blame hormones because menopause really impacted my appearance a lot. I put on weight and have just found it near impossible to get it off. But as well as this, the signs of ageing are very apparent. I have wrinkles and prominent lines and my hair gets greyer by the day.
I know this is just the reality of ageing and while I’d like to be proud of it, the truth is I am not and as well as feeling self-conscious, I am becoming resentful of Tom because he just keeps looking better,” she says.
Another component of this developing resentment Hannah says is the attention Tom is getting from other women.
“It’s not like he wasn’t attractive when he was younger but over the past couple of years, the attention to his looks has increased noticeably. Like we will be out at dinner and women will just stare at him like he is George Clooney or something. Or at bars, if he goes up alone to get some drinks, they will approach him, and this never happened before.”
Hannah says she has no concerns over Tom’s faithfulness, and she knows that Tom just thinks it is amusing but in contrast, she feels invisible and as if she is always comparing herself to Tom, with him coming out on top.
This element of comparison, relationship counsellor Lauren Bradley says is a common fallout from being jealous of a partner.
“A jealous partner will always compare your looks, your sexual attractiveness to their own, ‘You always get more attention at parties than I do.’ They may put themselves down at your expense, ‘You’re the looks in the relationship’ or ‘I’m the Danny DeVito to your Schwarzenegger.’ They may put you on an uncomfortable pedestal that may make you feel self-conscious and want to jump down,” she says.
As such, this resentment can lead to problems in the future for the person experiencing it and the relationship.
“Jealousy and insecurity can undermine your own confidence and lead you to become a lesser version of yourself for the sake of the relationship. Healthy relationships should encourage each person to become their best selves,” Bradley says.
In Hannah’s case, she says that she is very aware of how she is feeling and that this isn’t healthy or helpful.
“I know that my jealousy of Tom has a lot to do with my own lack of confidence and self-esteem. I am lucky that I have a supportive husband and have been able to speak openly to him about it,” she says.
Bradley agrees that communication is key to improving this issue.
“Tell your partner you’re struggling with self-confidence and take responsibility for working on your insecurities. Ask yourself why you desperately need external validation for your own self-worth (we all do!) and try to find that validation within,” she says.
She also suggests seeking professional help if needed. “A good therapist can support you to explore the root causes of your insecurities and support you to develop a healthier and more comfortable relationship with yourself.”
For Hannah, while the situation is ongoing, she says she is actively working on it, along with her own mental health and well-being.
“I am positive that soon I will be laughing along with Tom next time I see him being cracked onto at the bar and just generally happier within myself,” she says.